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Youth Drinking Risk Factors and Consequences Alcohol the most widely used and abused drug among youth causes serious and potentially life-threatening problems for this population Although alcohol is sometimes referred to as a gateway drug for youth because its use often precedes the use of other illicit substances this terminology is counterproductive youth drinking requires significant attention not because of what it leads to but because of the extensive human and economic impact of alcohol use by this vulnerable population Thirteen- to fifteen-year-olds are at high risk to begin drinking 3 According to results of an annual survey of students in 8th 10th and 12th grades 26 percent of 8th graders 40 percent of 10th graders and 51 percent of 12th graders reported drinking alcohol within the past month 4 Binge drinking at least once during the 2 weeks before the survey was reported by 16 percent of 8th graders 25 percent of 10th graders and 30 percent of 12th graders Males report higher rates of daily drinking and binge drinking than females but these differences are diminishing 3 White students report the highest levels of drinking blacks report the lowest and Hispanics fall between the two 3 A survey focusing on the alcohol-related problems experienced by 4390 high school seniors and dropouts found that within the preceding year approximately 80 percent reported either getting drunk binge drinking or drinking and driving More than half said that drinking had caused them to feel sick miss school or work get arrested or have a car crash 5 Some adolescents who drink later abuse alcohol and may develop alcoholism Although these conditions are defined for adults in the DSM research suggests that separate diagnostic criteria may be needed for youth 6 Parenting Family Environment and Peers affect a youths decision to drink Parents drinking behavior and favorable attitudes about drinking have been positively associated with adolescents initiating and continuing drinking Early initiation of drinking
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